Ward family running to keep up with each otherAug 04, 2022 10:19AM ● By Catherine Garrett
Olympian marathon runner Jared Ward didn’t have much time to celebrate winning the Deseret News 10K race July 23 in a personal best time of 27 minutes, 53 seconds. He needed to switch into dad mode and take his 1-year-old son James from his wife Erica’s arms so she could get to the starting line for her own 5K race.
“We had it all timed out where I knew I had to finish quickly and then I could go get our baby,” Jared Ward said.
Erica placed fifth in her age group in a time of 26:43 while coming in 110th overall. Their 10-year-old son Paul also competed in the 5K – in just his second race ever – and crossed the finish line in a personal-best time of 26:45, taking seventh within his division and 111th overall.
“It was so fun and exciting to watch my wife and son race,” Jared Ward said. “They’ve been cheering me on for so long and I’ve always looked forward to cheering on my kids in whatever they compete in, whether that’s soccer or baseball, or cross country.”
The trio slept in a hotel near the race route along with their baby the night before the event. “My race was at 6 a.m. and they stepped out of the hotel to cheer me on a couple of minutes into my run,” said Jared Ward, who won the race for the second time in the past three years while also placing second in 2021. Erica, Paul and James then went with friends to get to the finish line where the baby handoff would happen less than half an hour later. They then used the electric city scooters to get to their own starting lines.
Jared and Erica Christensen Ward both ran for Davis High and then competed for BYU before Jared – who was a collegiate All-American in the 10,000 meters – tried his hand at the marathon and quickly rose in the ranks nationally. On the world stage, he placed sixth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, as the top American finisher and has been a decorated professional runner for nearly a decade.
The 33-year-old Kaysville native and his wife, who now live in Mapleton with their five children – Paul, 8-year-old Ellie, 6-year-old Julia, 3-year-old Magnolia and James – is often known for having his family at his races. On July 4th of this year, they decided to participate together as a family of seven in the Kaysville Rotary 5K.
“This career has been a blessing in a lot of ways for our family, and it was so great to be able to say, ‘Today is about all of us,’” Jared Ward said.
Ten-year-old Paul not only took to the event in the Kaysville race, but he actually never stopped until the finish line. And because it was “so fun,” Paul decided to also participate in the Deseret News race a couple of weeks later.
During Paul’s race, Jared Ward was with his dad, who was helping deliver ice at the race, and they noticed Paul coming. “I wasn’t expecting him for another three minutes or so, so it was exciting to see him run that fast, and more importantly have so much fun doing it,” Jared Ward said.
“I thought the 4th of July race was pretty fun and I wanted to keep running, so I signed up for the next race,” Paul Ward said. “My motive is imagining being in the top 10 so numbers are a big part of it and then the other half is how fun it is.”
Last summer, Paul began running each morning with his friend, Tate, who wanted to get faster for tackle football. “I’m faster than Tate, so I told him I would help pace him,” Paul Ward said. “So, I would knock on his door every day at 8:45 in the morning and we would run to the school and back [a distance of nearly two miles].”
Jared Ward said he’s been careful not to “project running” on his kids. “Instead, I try to help them set goals and learn and grow in whatever they enjoy doing. But, Paul has been running every morning with a buddy on their own and it’s been so fun to watch that process.”
Erica Ward said, “We’re always asked if our kids will be Olympian and that’s a lot of pressure. We don’t want to force anything on our kids and have not pushed them at all to run. We don’t want them to do it unless they want to.”
Erica, who found success in the hurdles after falls throughout junior high and high school, which took her away from the sport until she continually decided to get up and try again, said she has been enjoying a new opportunity in running – this time, to just simply “keep up with Paul.” “I feel like myself when I’m running and it makes me happier, confident, and really keep everything in perspective while pushing boundaries of doing hard things,” she said. “It’s been really fun to run with Paul and let him take the lead. I’m so proud of him and proud of how he is pushing himself.”
Jared Ward’s running career continues and he is actively training towards a second Olympic Games, this time in Paris in 2024. “It will be an exciting thing for my family so I’ll at least go these next two years and then we’ll see where we’re at,” he said.
And the Ward’s also plan on making local 5Ks a family tradition. Despite having moved his family to Utah County, Jared Ward expressed his love for the Davis County area. “There’s a big piece of our hearts still there, that’s for sure.” λ